I've been a big fan of Existence since I first heard their demo when they dropped it in late 2016. At that time, the Stockholm, Sweden-based hardcore band reminded me of Dmize and Breakdown, but as they've progressed and released more material in the years since then, they've taken their sound into heavier and more metallic directions.
While 2018's Into the Furnace EP showcased Existence's path into that sonic realm, their forthcoming debut LP, Go to Heaven, is a far more sinister-sounding affair. The album's lead single, "Frozen Spirit," set the darker tone up, and as I've lived with an advance of the record for a few weeks now, I can tell you that it's not an anomaly within its track listing.
In short, if bands like Congress, Integrity, and Liar get your blood flowing, Existence have you covered on Go to Heaven.
I spoke with Existence guitarist LK and vocalist Linus about the album's influences and their musical upbringing in Sweden. Also, since the group's members also play in such musical outfits as Speedway, Feels Like Heaven, and Lifeblind, I asked them how that factors into what they're doing.
The genre tag “metallic hardcore” is certainly a broad one, but there’s something darker and more sinister in this new Existence material. The H8000 influence can be heard, but I’d love to get your mindset going into writing the songs on Go to Heaven.
LK (guitar): To be honest, no one in the band listens to the H8000 bands, so it has to be a coincidence that people identify it in our sound.
When we sat down at the SBU HQ after deciding to go all in and write for an LP, we started throwing around the words darker and more sinister, just as you described.
After writing and recording "Horror Spawns" and "Realm of Hate" for the 2020 LP promo, we knew we had found the path forward. We fetched plenty of inspiration from the original deathcore bands like Dmize and Confusion, as well as from various metal bands like Entombed, Morbid Angel, Celtic Frost, Mayhem, Slayer, etc.
I think the early death metal scene in Stockholm wasn't that different from the hardcore scene, which makes it a very appealing genre to draw inspiration from.
Go to Heaven was recorded by you and your drummer (Anton Larsson). Did that mean you had a lot of time to truly get everything right in the studio and not have to worry about financial constraints?
LK (guitar): Both of us have recorded a few demos and 7-inch here and there, but taking on this LP was a completely different challenge. We are a quite dysfunctional group which made the process very drawn out. Sometimes there would be months between sessions. It took us almost a year and a half from start of tracking until we had the final masters.
Since some of you play in other bands, do you look at Existence as a vehicle to explore certain musical styles that you wouldn’t in the other bands?
LK (guitar): Not really. Existence is the band that has been around the longest out of the bands we're in and I don't think any of us thinks of it in that way.
What are some of the lyrical themes you took on for this record?
Linus (vocals): There has always been a religious undertone in my lyrics, and for this record more than ever. I am in no way a religious person, but I think religion often has the words to describe things that are indescribable, things that transcends reality and logic. And making use of those symbols, words and ideas is a way for me to understand complex feelings and thoughts.
What comes first, the lyrics or the music, or does it change all the time?
Linus (vocals): I’m the only one writing lyrics, and the music I’ve contributed to Existence can be counted on one hand, so it’s really two separate processes. Usually I’ll just write things when I feel like it and try to piece it together with the music.
For this record though, I’ve had a real hard time writing lyrics and that is a big reason why the record took so long to record.
It’s interesting to me because I'm a huge fan of so many Swedish musical artists (ABBA, Max Martin, Europe, Entombed, Carnage, etc.). Is there a strong emphasis on music in the public schools there? It’s pretty dire in the States in that regard. From the people I’ve met from Sweden, I’m always impressed by their diverse musical tastes.
LK (guitar): We have some music in school but I think what really made Sweden blossom musically through the years is state funded youth centers with access to rehearsal studios and stages to play.
Sadly, the amount of money the state puts into cultural activities has been drastically declining in recent years, so who knows what will happen to the musical heritage Sweden is so proud of.
When and how did you discover hardcore? Was it through metal and then it progressed to more underground styles?
Linus (vocals): Reggae—ska—Oi!-—hardcore as far as subcultural affiliations, but I’ve always listened to metal to some degree regardless of my current hairstyle. Our bass player Leonardo actually booked the first hardcore show I attended in 2009.
What’s the plan for Existence once the album comes out? Since you’re busy with other projects, do you see the band having enough time to go out there and tour a bit, or will it be a case by case basis?
Linus (vocals): We’re currently planning a mainland Euro tour for the summer (promoters get in touch!). It’s harder to find time now, but that’s not only because of the other projects, but we’ve also all gotten older and are generally more tied up in our fake (outside world) lives, but we’ll make it work.
Go to Heaven will be out March 25th via Quality Control HQ.